Thankfulness is an emotion that is difficult to teach but is essential to living a healthy, full life. We’ve all taught our children to say “please” and respond with “thank you.” But, how do we, as parents, move our children beyond politeness to a true spirit of gratefulness? How do we help them to become aware of how blessed they are and inspire them to move beyond that blessing and give back to others in response? As parents this is what we want, more than any other time of the year, during this holiday season.

Throughout the elementary years, children begin cultivating the internal motivation to do the right thing, and a large part of that is learning to be grateful for the many blessings and opportunities they have in life. These feelings of appreciation have importance far beyond the simple “please and thank you” – they prepare kids for a more well-rounded and successful life.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley reported that “people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier, more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.” Being thankful makes us happier. And we all want our children to be happy, right?

Of course, most teachers and parents pinpoint Thanksgiving as an opportune time to teach this lesson of giving thanks. But sometimes, that message can get lost during the holidays, a time when many kids fixate on presents and treats and can get easily overwhelmed by the many distractions of the season. The best way to stay focused on what really matters is to intentionally practice it daily. Working a gratitude class into your daily homeschool and life routine will help your children to absorb what it means to truly be thankful.

Here are a few lesson plans that we’ve prepared to not only educate students on the historic importance of Thanksgiving to our country, but also help foster the significance of giving thanks each day.

Thanksgiving in America Today. This exercise educates students on how our nation’s leaders, past and present, have spoken on the meaning of Thanksgiving, while also allowing them to express individual thankfulness for their own blessings.

Humility & Hope. A lesson plan that shows children how to define Thanksgiving as an appropriate response to God’s goodness. By comparing and analyzing two important verses from the Old Testament, students will learn the meaning of God’s faithfulness, and how to be accepting of his benevolence, compassion, and patience.

You can find more of Bridgeway’s tips for teaching Thanksgiving by visiting our “Teaching Homeschoolers About Thanksgiving” page on Homeschooling Help.

We’ve also compiled some of our favorites from around the web as a tool for you:

7 Ways to Raise Super Grateful Kids. We like this approach because it shows us – as parents and as teachers – how to become a role model for our children when it comes to being appreciative.

Mayflower Families. This site is devoted to the Mayflower and its passengers. It appeals to students of all ages, allowing them to take an in-depth look into early colonial life.

Thankful Turkey Corkboard. Spending time with your children creating crafts during the holidays is an ideal opportunity to reflect on what we are thankful for. This colorful corkboard can be displayed all month long with a new note being added every day.

Plimoth Plantation Just for Kids. Plimoth Plantation is a Smithsonian Affiliations Program and is more than just a great field trip destination. It also provides plenty of online Thanksgiving activities that teach children of any age interesting facts about colonial life and how the holiday was celebrated in the 17th century.

I am Grateful For: Printable. There’s really no season or holiday for gratitude, but Thanksgiving is always a good time to remember all that we are truly grateful for. This simple printable will give your child an opportunity to count their blessings this year.

Lincoln’s Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day. This authentic text is a primary source – Lincoln’s proclamation that Thanksgiving is a national holiday, given on October 3, 1863. You can also present your students with George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from October 3, 1789, for comparison, analysis and deeper understanding.

What are the important messages you hope your children will better understand this Thanksgiving? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!